Premises Liability

New Jersey Premises Liability Attorneys

Premises liability is the area of the law that holds landlords accountable for hidden hazards on their property that cause harm to visitors. A common scenario is the slip and fall, where an unsuspecting visitor encounters a slick surface and falls to the ground. Injuries from such accidents can cause intense pain, lifelong disability, and even wrongful death. Unfortunately, due to the requirements of the law, the landlord’s fault is often very hard to prove. If you or a loved one has been harmed by a slip and fall, trip and fall, falling merchandise, or another premises liability accident, you can rely on the accomplished personal injury attorneys at Brach Eichler Trial Lawyers to assert your rights. Our seasoned trial lawyers have recovered more than $227 million dollars in compensation for our injured clients. We are determined to prosecute your case aggressively to deliver the results you deserve.

What you must prove to recover for a slip and fall injury

To recover compensation for a slip and fall or other premises liability claim, an injured plaintiff must prove the necessary legal elements:

  • Duty — The plaintiff must be a person towards whom the landlord had a duty of care. In other words, whether the landlord is accountable can depend on who you are relative to the landlord. There are three major categories of premises liability plaintiffs: business invitees, licensees, and trespassers. The landlord’s duty is different for each. If you are a business invitee, such as a customer at a restaurant, the landlord owes you the highest duty of care. He is expected to inspect the premises to discover hidden hazards and either correct them or provide adequate warning to keep you safe. A licensee is someone who enters the property for their own benefit, like a social guest coming over for dinner. A landlord only owes an invitee a duty to warn when he has actual knowledge of a hazard. Finally, as for trespassers, the landlord only owes a duty to warn of artificial conditions that could cause death or serious bodily harm.
  • Breach — This means the landlord failed to perform his duty towards the plaintiff. In the case of an invitee, the landlord might have been lax in inspecting the premises and as a result, did not discover a hazard in time to protect the invitee. For a licensee, a breach means neglecting to warn about a known hazard that is not open and obvious to a reasonably attentive person. Towards a trespasser, the breach could be a failure to post signs around a pit the landlord had dug.
  • Causation — The plaintiff must prove that the landlord’s failure to perform his duty led directly to an event that injured the plaintiff.
  • Damages — The plaintiff is entitled to recover for economic and non-economic losses stemming from the injury event. Economic losses include medical bills (present and future) and lost wages (present and future). Non-economic damages, referred to collectively as “pain and suffering,” include compensation for physical pain, mental suffering, loss of quality of life, loss of enjoyment of life, and other real but intangible losses.

Our task, as your personal injury advocate, is to assemble the evidence necessary to prove each element in this list. We must prove all four for you to recover anything. We must present compelling evidence for you to recover the full and fair compensation you deserve. This is not a task you should entrust to a novice lawyer. Premises liability cases often present difficulties in proving these elements, and it takes an experienced and dedicated attorney to assemble the evidence and present a persuasive case for recovery. Our track record speaks for itself; we are highly capable of delivering results.

Difficulties proving liability for premises liability injuries

There are inherent difficulties to proving liability in a premises liability case. These include:

  • Reasonable person standard — Proving breach of duty requires a plaintiff to show that a reasonable person in the landlord’s position would have behaved differently. Such proof depends on a thorough examination of the totality of the circumstances. Your attorney must have the capacity to build a compelling case that considers every detail in the timeline of your accident.
  • Destruction of evidence — If the hazard that caused the accident was a wet floor, a loose tile, or even a pothole, a wily landlord can easily eliminate any incriminating evidence before an attorney can return to the scene to verify the hazardous condition. Victims of premises liability accidents can certainly help themselves, if they are able, by taking cell phone photographs of the accident scene.

A landlord also has effective defenses to a premises liability case:

  • Comparative negligence — This defense asserts that the plaintiff bears some responsibility for the accident. For example, the hazard was obvious, but the plaintiff simply was not paying attention.
  • Assumption of risk — The plaintiff was paying attention and recognized the hazard, but he or she made a conscious decision to proceed at his or her own risk.
  • Exculpatory clauses — The law of New Jersey disfavors these agreements, because they encourage a lack of care among landlords. However, a clear agreement can relieve a landlord from responsibility under certain circumstances.

There are many other considerations that complicate premises liability cases, such as the provability of certain chronic pain injuries. But, you can rest assured that when Brach Eichler Trial Lawyers takes your case, we will employ a comprehensive approach that covers every aspect of the case to maximize your chances of a full recovery.

It’s All About Results

It’s All About Results

We are the trial attorneys with the experience and knowledge to get you the results you deserve. At Brach Eichler Trial Lawyers, we take time to get to know you, as well as your case. We are committed to excellence. It is important for our team to understand your fears, concerns and expectations. We are always available to answer any questions, and are willing to come to you if you are unable to come to us.

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Types of Premises Liability Cases We Handle

In premises liability cases, people are typically divided into one of three groups, and property owners can have different duties of care depending on a person’s status. The three groups include:

  • Invitees — Individuals who are on property by the expressed or implied invitation of an owner, often for mutual benefit, are considered invitees. The property owner has a duty to warn invitees of dangerous conditions that they are aware of. People who are on property open to the public are usually considered invitees.
  • Licensees — Individuals who are on property with the consent of a property owner but for their own benefit are licensees. A property owner still needs to warn a licensee about dangerous conditions they are aware of.
  • Trespassers — Individuals who are on property without the property owner’s consent are considered trespassers. A property owner only owes the duty to a trespasser to not engage in injurious conduct or warn of conditions that pose a risk of death or serious bodily harm.

One important exception as it relates to trespassers is the “attractive nuisance” doctrine that allows for property owners to be held liable for injuries caused by hazardous objects or conditions that are likely to attract small children, such as swimming pools. Trespassers who are children can be entitled to premises liability damages in attractive nuisance cases when property owners do not make efforts to secure their attractive nuisances.

One of the most common kinds of premises liability claims is the aforementioned slip and fall accident. Slip and fall accidents may be the result of such conditions as:

  • Cracked or uneven flooring
  • Dirty and/or trash covered floors
  • Torn floor mats
  • Potholes, ice, curbs in parking lots
  • Snow and ice
  • Stray electrical cords and wires
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Defects in pavement
  • Broken handrails
  • Exposed cords (obstacles)
  • Wet, slippery flooring
  • Unsafe or hazardous premise/property

Premises liability could also include negligent security claims when a person is the victim of a violent crime or sexual assault.

Premises liability claims can present other challenges depending on whether the property you were injured on was public property or private property. In accidents in public places, always make sure that you quickly file a report with a manager on duty wherever your fall occurred and ask for a copy of the report.

Some of the most common kinds of places that premises liability accidents occur include, but are not limited to:

  • Escalators and Elevators
  • Workplaces
  • Small Businesses
  • Parking Lots and Garages
  • Amusement Parks
  • Bars
  • Homes
  • Grocery Stores
  • Public Spaces
  • Retail Stores
  • Office Buildings
  • Movie Theaters
  • Restaurants
  • Staircases
  • Hotels and Resorts

The injuries people may suffer in premises liability accidents can vary depending on numerous factors, but it is always important for all people to make sure that they seek medical attention. Even if you do not think you were hurt in a fall or other premises liability accident, you should still go to a hospital simply to create a medical record and also to ensure there was no injury with delayed symptoms.

Premises liability accidents can often leave people in hospitals for several weeks or months and then accumulating numerous other treatment expenses for continuing care and rehabilitation. The same victims can have difficulty returning to work.

Possible injuries involved in premises liability claims may include:

  • Broken bones
  • Head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries
  • Neck, spine, and spinal cord injuries (including paralysis)
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Internal organ injuries
  • Muscle strains

A premises liability accident could also result in a person dying from their injuries. The family of a person killed because of a property owner’s negligence can often file a wrongful death lawsuit against the property owner.

Can I recover damages if I was partially at fault for my accident?

Yes. New Jersey Revised Statute § 2A:15-5.1 establishes that contributory negligence, which is your own degree of fault in an accident, will not bar recovery in an action to recover damages for negligence so long as their negligence was not greater than the negligence of the defendants. This is known as modified comparative fault, which is frequently referred to as a 51 percent bar. This same state law also holds that a person’s damages in a personal injury case can be reduced in proportion to their negligence. This means that a person who is awarded $100,000 in a premises liability accident but was found to have been 15 percent at fault will have their award reduced by $15,000 and receive $85,000. 

What kinds of damages could I be entitled to?

Many premises liability accident cases are resolved through settlements, rather than going to trial. Some cases will make it to court though, and a person who proves their premises liability case will usually be awarded compensatory damages. The phrase compensatory damages is usually some combination of economic damages, awards for bills that can actually be calculated, and noneconomic damage, awards for harm that is more emotional or psychological in nature.

Economic damages often include medical bills, lost wages, and property damage that can be proven through bills and estimates while noneconomic damages are far more subjective awards for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium. New Jersey does also allow for punitive damage awards, but they are quite rare because they have to be proven by clear and convincing evidence.

How is my case different if a public entity was the property owner?

Lawsuits that you intend to file against public entities in New Jersey will require you to file a notice of intent to sue with the public entity within 90 days of the date of your accident under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act. This is dramatically shorter than the standard statute of limitations for private entities. The public entity is then allowed as much as six months to review a claim before a lawsuit can be filed.

Contact a preeminent NJ law firm for your premises liability claim

Brach Eichler Trial Lawyers provides highly professional and ethical representation for slip and fall injuries and other premises liability claims throughout New Jersey. Let us help you obtain the full compensation you deserve. Call us today at 973-364-8300 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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